The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention is proposing lowering the acceptable blood lead limit at the same time as federal budget cuts are reducing Cuyahoga county’s ability to fight childhood lead poisoning. The current blood lead limit is 10 micrograms/deciliter, but the CDC is considering lowering that limit to 5 micrograms/deciliter. Any children under 6 who test positive for elevated blood lead receive mandatory treatment. Elevated blood levels in young children can result in lower IQ, hearing loss, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and violent behavior. Children can be exposed to lead through paint in homes built before 1978, lead plumbing, and lead contaminated soil.
The Obama administration’s plans to merge the National Asthma Control Program and the Health Homes/Lead Poisoning Prevention Program into the new Health Home and Community Environments Program have reduced the funding of the two agencies by half, leading to concerns from local lead poisoning prevention programs. In recent years, Cuyahoga County has received money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to reduce lead in homes, but has not received any federal funding for lead screening programs.
In 2010, Cuyahoga County has the highest elevated blood lead level prevalence in Ohio, with 4.19% of children having blood lead levels above the current 10 micrograms/deciliter limits. Of 155,765 Ohio children screened for lead poisoning, 1.3% (2,042) had elevated blood levels according to the current limits. Under the new recommendations, an additional 13,394 (8.5%) Ohio children would be considered to have elevated blood lead levels.
On May 16, 2012 the CDC officially lowered the acceptable blood level limit from 10 micrograms/deciliter to 5 micrograms/deciliter. The new standards will be applicable to children under the age of 6.